426 F.3d 221 (3rd Cir. 2005), 03-4759, United States v. Naranjo

Docket Nº:03-4759.
Citation:426 F.3d 221
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v. Adolfo NARANJO, Appellant.
Case Date:September 26, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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426 F.3d 221 (3rd Cir. 2005)



Adolfo NARANJO, Appellant.

No. 03-4759.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

Sept. 26, 2005

Argued Jan. 18, 2005.

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Maureen Kearney Rowley, Chief Federal Defender, David L. McColgin, Supervising Appellate Attorney, Elaine DeMasse (Argued), Assistant Federal Defender, Federal Court Division, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, for Appellant.

Patrick L. Meehan, United States Attorney, Laurie Magid, Deputy U.S. Attorney for Policy and Appeals, Robert A. Zauzmer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, David E. Troyer (Argued), Assistant U.S. Attorney, Philadelphia, PA, for Appellee.

Before ALITO, McKEE and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

McKEE, Circuit Judge.

Adolfo Naranjo asks us to determine whether the District Court erred in denying his suppression motion based upon the investigating agents' failure to give Miranda warnings before obtaining an inculpatory custodial statement. He also appeals the District Court's denial of his request for a minor role reduction in his sentence. For the reasons that follow, we will reverse and remand the case to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Factual Background.

In February 2003, Naranjo appeared at the Philadelphia warehouse of Banocol Marketers. Banocol is headquartered in Columbia, but imports and distributes produce in the United States. Naranjo arrived unannounced and informed the company's vice president, Sander Daniel, of his desire to purchase plantains for resale in New England. App. 287a-295a.

Daniel was suspicious because Naranjo appeared unannounced and because of his apparent inexperience with ripening, importing, and distributing produce. Naranjo also lacked industry credentials and credit. Accordingly, Daniel contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and Customs began investigating Naranjo.

Utilizing cellular telephone records, the agents learned that Naranjo lived at 1949 Pratt Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and they placed that location under surveillance. During the course of their surveillance they confirmed cellular telephone conversations between Naranjo and Estaban Correa, who lived at 444 Spencer Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. App. 73, 102.

In early March, Banacol provided Naranjo with two shipments of plantains. He resold them in Philadelphia, rather than in New England as he had initially proposed. After taking delivery of those shipments, Naranjo ordered 96 boxes of plantains from Banacol. They arrived in Philadelphia as part of a larger shipment on March 17, 2003. On March 18, 2003, Customs agents investigated the shipment with the aid of a drug detection dog. The dog "alerted" to one of the boxes, thereby suggesting that the box contained a controlled substance. Upon opening it, agents found approximately six kilograms of cocaine inside. The agents seized the cocaine, replaced

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it with sham cocaine, and also placed a transponder inside the box. The transponder allowed them to track the box and signal when the box was opened.

Naranjo picked the box up on March 19, 2003, and Banacol employees loaded it onto his truck at the direction of undercover Customs agents. Later that day, Naranjo drove to a grocery store and unloaded a box with the help of Correa, who trailed Naranjo to the store. Within an hour, agents saw Naranjo's white truck at Correa's residence, and the two were observed looking through some boxes of plantains in the back of Naranjo's truck. Agents then saw Naranjo carry a box of plantains into the house, accompanied by Correa and his girlfriend, later identified as "Marguerita Orrego."

At this point, agents knew from signals they were receiving from the transponder that the box of sham cocaine was in Correa's residence. Shortly thereafter, Naranjo and Correa left the house and drove away in Naranjo's truck. Naranjo was later seen entering his residence on Pratt Street, and he remained there until the following morning.

Later that evening, after Correa, Orrego, and another woman left the Spencer Street residence, the transponder tone changed, indicating that the box of sham cocaine had been opened. When Correa and Orrego returned to 444 Spencer Street, they were approached by agents who informed the two of the investigation and accompanied them into the residence. Once inside, agents found a Banacol box of plantains and the transponder inside the kitchen; the sham cocaine was no longer in the box.

On the morning of March 20, 2003, Customs Agent Michael Rodgers and approximately eight other agents converged on Naranjo as he left his Pratt Street residence and attempted to enter his truck. Speaking in Spanish, Rodgers identified himself and the other agents as police, and told Naranjo to "put his hands up" and get out of the truck. 1 App. 101a. Rodgers' gun was drawn as he approached Naranjo. App. 341a. Naranjo's hands were then placed on the side of the truck, and he was searched. Approximately $900 in cash was seized from his pocket, and he was then handcuffed and searched. 2

Agent Rodgers then asked Naranjo if they could enter the residence, and Naranjo consented. After entering, Naranjo told the agents that he lived on the second floor and lead them to his one room apartment. He gave them the key, and the agents obtained Naranjo's permission to search it. During the search, agents told Naranjo that he had been under surveillance for a couple of days. Agent Rodgers then told him: "I'm going to be straight up with you, if you'll be straight with me. You're not under arrest at this point. I just wanted to--I want to know if you'll talk to us." App. 116a. Rodgers also told Naranjo that

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he did not have to speak to the agents or "answer any of our questions." App. 116a.

Rodgers then took Naranjo downstairs to an enclosed porch where Naranjo sat, still handcuffed, on a foam mat. They were joined by Special Agent Fleener and possibly others, and Naranjo was again asked if he was willing to answer their questions. The agents reiterated that he did not have to answer questions, and that he could instead remain silent. Naranjo agreed to speak with the agents, and they began questioning him about his activities the previous day. 3 Naranjo apparently incriminated himself in the importation of cocaine through Banocol Marketers. While they were questioning Naranjo, other agents who were present told Agent Rodgers that they had received authorization to arrest Naranjo that day. At the same time, the agents agreed to Naranjo's request to go to the bathroom. According to Agent Rodgers, when Naranjo returned from the bathroom, he told them he wanted to "speak more," but agents stopped him and gave him Miranda warnings. 4 App 123a., 126a.

After the warnings were given, Rodgers asked Naranjo if he was willing to waive his rights and answer questions without an attorney being present. Naranjo stated that he was, and Agent Rodgers then gave him two forms. One form outlined the rights that had just been read. The other was a waiver form indicating that he wished to waive those rights. Naranjo was given both forms to sign. Agent Rodgers and at least one other agent who was present then signed both forms to indicate that they had witnessed Naranjo's signature on each one. However, it is not disputed that Naranjo signed only the advice of rights form. He never signed the waiver form. 5

Before Naranjo received his Miranda warnings, he told the agents he had seen Correa open the box with the sham cocaine, there was a mark on the box, the box contained "breathing holes," and when the box was dropped on the floor, he could see three white bags. App. 132a-133a. After receiving the warnings, Naranjo told Agents that the three packages he saw could have been cocaine, Correa told him the packages contained three kilos of cocaine, and a male was going to come for them from the Spencer Street address. He also told the agents that he had been arrested for drugs in Colombia and served twenty months in prison. App. 132a-133a.

Following the statement, Naranjo was formally taken into custody and transported to the Customs House. Upon arriving there, he refused to speak further to the agents, and they refrained from any additional questioning. He was thereafter formally charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. 6

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II. Procedural History.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Naranjo with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and attempted distribution of 6.75 kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(A).

Prior to trial, Naranjo moved to suppress both the statements he made to Customs agents and physical evidence seized from his apartment. The government conceded that statements Naranjo gave before he was "Mirandized" would not be offered at trial. However, the government maintained that the statements Naranjo made after receiving Miranda warnings were admissible. The District Court denied Naranjo's motion after a hearing. The court concluded that Naranjo "wanted to talk [to the agents] and did," that Naranjo was handcuffed during the entire interrogation but comfortable, that "he was talkative," that he understood the Miranda warnings once they were given, that he knew that he did not have to make any statements, that he was aware of his right to counsel after he was warned, and that his waiver of his Miranda rights was knowing and voluntary. App. 256a. The court concluded that Naranjo believed that the "agents had connected him through their own observations with the transport of cocaine and the delivery of cocaine or at least, what he believed...

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